U.S. Judge Starts 2-Year Prison Term

From Times Wire Services

Nevada’s U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne became the first sitting federal judge ever to go to prison, when he arrived at a federal facility here Friday to begin serving a two-year sentence for income tax evasion.

Claiborne, 68, of Las Vegas flew to Montgomery on a commercial flight and then took a taxi to the minimum-security prison at Maxwell Air Force Base, a day after Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens refused, without comment, to block the judge’s imprisonment pending further appeals.

Claiborne was sentenced to two years in prison for a 1984 conviction of failing to report law practice income totaling $106,000 on federal tax returns in 1979 and 1980.

Still Gets $78,200 Pay


He has refused to resign from the bench, a lifetime appointment, and will continue to draw a $78,200 annual salary in prison, unless he is impeached and convicted.

His convictions have been upheld on appeal, but he has raised a number of new challenges to his case, including an allegation that police and FBI agents illegally broke into his home in 1981 and copied financial records that were later used to indict him. He also has argued that a federal judge cannot be imprisoned before he is impeached and convicted.

The House Judiciary Committee is currently considering impeachment proceedings against Claiborne. If the House votes for impeachment, Claiborne would be tried in the Senate and other work in the upper chamber would grind to a halt.

‘Country Club’ Prison


The prison camp, which gained note as the site where former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Mitchell served his term for Watergate offenses, is a minimum-security institution at which inmates can work without being behind barbed-wire fences or high walls.

The prison camp is for inmates serving time for tax evasion and other nonviolent offenses. The prisoners are not locked up, and they can play tennis and softball, see movies each week and hold picnics on the grounds with visitors.